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Br J Gen Pract. Jan 1998; 48(426): 880–884.
PMCID: PMC1409911

Everyday symptoms in childhood: occurrence and general practitioner consultation rates.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Fewer than 20% of all illnesses that occur in the home require the attention of a general practitioner (GP). Whether specific illnesses in children are more likely to need the attention of a GP is poorly understood, as is the influence of various other factors. Health diaries are the most suitable method of collecting comprehensive information about children's health problems at home and in general practice simultaneously. AIM: To investigate the occurrence of, and consultation rates for, specific symptoms in childhood in relation to age, sex, birth order, and place of residence of the child, and season of the year. METHOD: The parents of 1805 children kept a health diary over three weeks and recorded symptoms and consultation behaviour. The symptoms were later combined into illness episodes. RESULTS: Over three weeks, colds/flu (157/1000 children) and respiratory symptoms (114/1000 children) occurred most frequently. More young children (0-4 years) suffered from illness generally. Eleven per cent of all illness episodes required the attention of a GP. Consultation rates differed greatly according to symptoms. A GP was consulted most often for ear (36%) and skin (28%) problems, and least often for headaches (2%) and tiredness (1%). Regardless of symptoms, young children (0-4 years) were taken to a GP twice as often as older children (10-14 years). CONCLUSIONS: This study emphasizes the enormous amount of illness that occurs in children and the fact that more than 80% of all illnesses are dealt with by parents without reference to the professional health care system.

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Selected References

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